Winter brings cold weather, and with it the increased temptation to warm up your car before getting in. Thieves call these running cars “steamers”, as the cold makes the exhaust easy to spot, and they are a prime target for vehicle theft. When a vehicle is stolen in this way, the potential risks span far wider than the mere loss of transportation. In addition to your vehicle, the thief now has both your keys and the contents of your glove box (registration, insurance, etc.), both of which provide them with the opportunity for a bigger target than the vehicle itself. The amount of potential damage and even danger can be staggering.
What else do you keep on your key chain?
In the age of Internet and social media, it takes only a quick online search of your name (on your registration in the glove box, along with the name of you spouse, your address, insurance company, etc.) to determine where you live, who your family and friends are, where you work, your work and social schedule, and a treasure trove of other valuable information. He knows when you’re home (and he has your house keys), knows where you and your wife work (and may have keys to your office and even your work vehicles), knows your office hours, what you and your family look like, etc. If interest is piqued enough to attempt to get into your mail, he may also obtain banking info and other documents that make identity theft a real problem.
Many law enforcement agencies have deemed the potential risks associated with winter warm-ups so great that many jurisdictions have made warming up an unoccupied vehicle with keys inside illegal.
So what do we advise? If you choose to brave the elements and sit in your car with cold hands while your vehicle warms up, it is important that you lock the doors and stay aware of the situation and individuals around you, as occupied “steamers” still represent a viable target. The best solution if you are prone to winter warm-ups is to install a remote-start feature on your car. Most systems are affordable (around the cost of the fine for a warm-up ticket), and it will greatly increase both your safety and your comfort on those cold winter mornings.
Chris Denison is a Self-Defense Instructor, Certified Firearms Instructor, and Defense and Security Consultant for the Portland, Oregon branch of Complete Threat Preparedness LLC.
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